This Week in Anime
Is Kemono Michi All Bark and No Bite?

by Nicholas Dupree & Andy Pfeiffer,

This isekai anime series features a hot-blooded wrestler who wants nothing more than to be friends with all the animals. How could such a wholesome premise turn sour? Turns out a whole lot.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network. Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead. NSFW Warning: Panty shots, ahoy!


You can read our weekly coverage of Kemono Michi: Rise Up here!

@Lossthief @Liuwdere @A_Tasty_Sub @vestenet


Nick
Andy, I totally thought last season was the motherlode of isekai shows. We had four of 'em! Four! But somehow this season sneaked in at least six of these otherworldly bastards in, and if we don't start hitting them soon we're going to be overrun. So without further ado:
Andy
Wrestling and anime! Two things that taste great together!

I'm sure the addition of isekai won't do anything to ruin that.
Well let's be fair, they don't always taste great together.

But yes, we seem to be marginally entering a new phase of isekai anime adaptations. (Mostly) gone are the days of innocuous potatoes being granted super powers in JRPG land. Now it's innocuous potatoes going to JRPG land and having wacky stuff added on— like having to stay with your mom, or being a spider, or being a furry-obsessed pro wrestler who's probably on an FBI wanted list.
I had high hopes when I originally heard the premise of this show. And then I learned it was from the author of KONOSUBA. Then I was unsurprised when this happens.

Welcome to Kemono Michi: Rise Up! everyone.
Yeahhhhhhhhhhh.
So, the premise of Kemono Michi is pretty gold on paper—an animal loving pro-wrestler gets summoned into Isekai World to fight all the crazy monster ravaging the kingdom. But instead of killing them, he tussles with them, tames them, and opens of a pet shop to teach the world to love their furry-feathery-fire-breathing friends. In practice, I was ready to check out after we got a loving close-up of the unconscious princess' taint 3 minutes in.
This is such a frustrating show because on paper I'm totally for immediately suplexing the princess that summons you out of a title match and expects you to murder for her. That the show turns this into showcasing taint and a running joke of humiliating a woman absolutely sucks.
It really is just a spoiled idea. The absurdity of a masked wrestler going Brock Lesnar on a fantasy princess and then having to go on the lam is great! But the weird focus on fanservice just makes it feel like I'm reading somebody's dojinshi stash. It tries to be goofy and jovial with the whole set piece, but like, I can't not feel a little grody when the camera is cramming my face into an unconscious lady's ass.
It's telling that the absolute best part of the show are the cut-ins, because it's the only time you see the female characters living up to what could have been.

Especially for the poor vampire.

I know KONOSUBA is mean-spirited but man, I had forgot just how bad that was until Kemono Michi started pulling the same shit.
Oh we'll get to Carmilla, but first I do want to talk about some of the stuff about this show that does work. Like the puppy. Look it the cute puppy. Woof woof puppy.
The puppy is VERY GOOD.

Also good are the actual monster designs! If I had to buy one from this isekai pet store I would totally be the proud owner of the haughty giant hamster.
Hands down the best part of the show is episode two's montage where Genzo just goes around collecting new pets and fawning over how cute they are in all their monster glory. It's just delightful and where the whole production feels the most earnest.
To be clear, specifically the fawning and not the assaulting.
heavy sigh
And boy does that line run real thin for way too much of the time.
OK yeah, that's the other part where Kemono Michi decides to piss in its own cereal. See, there are also animal people in this isekai world. And it turns out when Genzo says he loves animals it's like, maybe the type of love that's illegal in most of the contiguous U.S.
Even in the less upsetting incidents, there's absolutely no reason him giving a dog a belly rub also needs to have it distressed as he sniffs its ass for a full minute.

But you're right. It's worse when it's applied to Beastmen.
Look. It's 2019. Furries stopped being a punchline years ago and if you want your hero to be really into some wolf pecs, more power to ya. But does it have to be played up as him molesting them?
Don't worry, the poor wolfman gets a pretty severe amount of PTSD from the experience, so of course the show constantly jokes about his fear of being assaulted again. Hilarious. Also the framing is absolutely aware of why this is should be appalling and that only makes it worse.
Listen guys. The "it looks like sexual assault, but technically isn't!" joke was old hat when Kill la Kill did it, and you are not Kill la Kill. Please just keep Genzo's urges to the consensual. Like him slowly working his way into a three-way with the Kobolds next door.
THE ONE TIME IT'S ACTUALLY CONSENSUAL THE JOKE WORKS! WHY ARE NONE OF THE OTHER JOKES WRITTEN LIKE THIS ONE!?
There are other jokes in the show, the problem is they're also pretty lame. Genzo flipping out and attacking anyone that calls him Demon Beast Killer or mention their jobs of killing monsters gets old real fast. The only times it ever works is when it happens to the actual adventuring party and Shigure saves it by stealing their gradually more expensive swords.
The biggest problem, outside of the non-con stuff, is most of KM's gags are just repeated every episode. Somebody calls Genzo that title he does the exact same thing with identical delivery, context, and outcome. Running gags like that live off of escalation or new twists, and that's just not there. Shigure, at least, is pretty good. Besides being the straight man to the party's nonsense, she's where I think the show nails the It's Always Sunny in Another World tone it's trying for.
I really wish the other characters lived up to her. While the first episode or two fail to do more than stock jokes with her, she quickly develops into a lovable greedy matriarch. Part of this is she's the only character that has more than one trait. While Genzo preaches about teaching people to value each other, at its core it really isn't anything other than an extension of his boasting or a justification for how shitty he acts. Shigure, however, actually does want to see her fellow Beastmen treated as equals just as much as she wants money.
Unfortunately she's too busy babysitting Genzo the walking lawsuit, and by episode 3 she has to take care of this lost Fire Emblem mascot, too.
OK, her intro episode did have some good moments.


But then her character becomes "eats a lot." That's it.
I just wish they would stop talking about how she's a half-dragon, because every time the seiyū mention it I remember Dragon Half and nobody should every remember Dragon Half.
Hey, I will defend Dragon Half over this. It at least came from a time where you could have a fantasy anime and it not be isekai.
Really though, while Hanako's gag gets stale pretty quickly I enjoy her rapport with Genzo. He's an overgrown child at heart, so sticking him with an even dumber child makes for some fun interaction. Which is more than I can say for the final member of our crew.
There are aspects of Carmilla that would work great in other shows! I love the idea of a shitty vampire!

Unfortunately this show decides that as a mess of a woman she must be constantly assaulted and shamed.
There are ways to write a buttmonkey character like Carmilla well, but boy does Kemono Michi not do any of them.
Her interactions with Genzo are some of the worst, but I'm chalking that up to Genzo and the show more than her character, because that feels like buying into the shitty logic of the show and I refuse.
The key to making "character constantly gets humiliated" running gags work is to make it feel like that humiliation is
  1. earned by their actions and
  2. proportional to the shit they would pull if unhindered.
The problem is, Carmilla isn't demonstrably crummier than Genzo or Hanako, who are both mostly-useless jerks by episode 4 anyway, so singling her out just feels unduly mean-spirited.
Again this why Shigure works, because she has the ability to call out Genzo's shit.


But anytime Carmilla tries to even attempt a joke at Genzo's expense, and usually rightfully so, she's instantly assaulted. Either by Genzo himself or some monster.
And sometimes she's assaulted just because she's there. And hey here's a look at her cleavage while you're watching that because I guess we didn't leave that gag behind in ep 1.
The taint cam gets a lot of work on her which again, thanks Kemono Michi birthing that stupid term.
And it's not like I think comedies need to be squeaky clean to be funny. Satania from Gabriel DropOut is basically the exact same character as Carmilla, but she works because she walks into most of her suffering Wile E. Coyote style, and most of her karmic punishment is being chased by a puppy or disciplined by a teacher. We're not getting a face full of her panties.
I'm a big fan of Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and people really like to use its existence as some kind of overall excuse for other shittier comedies, but there's a reason that show works where so many mean-spirited comedies fail, and that's largely framing. Laughing at terrible people causing their own misery and occasionally rising above themselves whether on purpose or accident can be a lot of fun, but it also takes a lot to craft those scenarios so they aren't lazy punching down. However, a lot of these shows instead simply do punch down a lot or fabricate scenarios to excuse being a complete asshole and neither of those things are smart or enjoyable.
And the biggest problem with all that is, beneath it, there's a really unique and interesting story that could be told here. Words can't express how downright fun it was to see Genzo having a full on wrestling match with an orc chief in episode 2. In a glut of samey isekai shows it stands as one of the most memorable, unique sequences in anime this year.
Turns out that the fantasy wrestling show can be good when it's about WRESTLING. Seriously, the animation of that fight is great, the message is great, and the conclusion is solid but it jars really harshly with the rest of the show. For more proof of the show being good when it wants to be, the episode that cuts back to MAO, Genzo's opponent in the opening scene of the show, going through some tough feelings after his rival disappears and leaves the match up in the air was a cool sidestep to the fantasy world.
Knit your feelings out, MAO. It'll be ok.
Oh no

That he subconsciously knitted Animal Mask is impressive not only because damn that takes skill, but he somehow did it with only blue yarn. That's how deep his feelings run right now.
And along with being a neat look at something most isekai stories gloss over, it's a great way to setup him being summoned by the Evil Princess to eventually become the Maou-sama MAO-sama to Genzo's legendary hero. If the fate of the world comes down to a wrestling match I may just stick around for that.
If you do let me know when it happens, because as fun as that sounds I'm not sure how much of this I can put up with in order to reach it.
Maybe it's just because I miss Tiger Mask, but I'm willing to wade through KM's worst bits for a little while longer if it means I get to see somebody chokeslam a Bugbear. And for Antman.
OK if the Ant ever gets to participate in a wrestling match you better let me know ASAP. Until then I'm gonna keep my distance and make this face anytime I think about the wasted potential.

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